The New Yorker‘s first art critic, Murdock Pemberton, was a man of many passions. Besides penning criticism for the magazine and other publications in the 1920s and ’30s, he was also playwright, PR agent and cocktail and food writer for Esquire. His various pursuits are recounted in a wonderful recent book, Portrait of Murdock Pemberton, which was written by his granddaughter Sally Pemberton. Read More
A year ago, on the eve of his retrospective at the Guggenheim, artist Maurizio Cattelan announced his retirement. Recently, another esteemed figure, the cultural critic, curator, professor and one-time art dealer Dave Hickey, called to let The Observer know that he, too, is taking a step back. Mr. Hickey, winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and author of numerous catalogue essays, became well known for his 1993 book The Invisible Dragon (in which he, controversially at the time, championed beauty) and 1997′s Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy, a collection of his writings on a wide range of topics published in the form of his “Simple Hearts” column in the now-defunct magazine Art Issues. In 2001, he curated the biennial exhibition Site Santa Fe. Most recently a professor of criticism in the department of art and art history at the University of New Mexico, he left teaching last year. In the following interview, conducted by phone from Santa Fe, and via e-mail, he explains his reasons for (partly) retiring, why he’s against group shows, contracts and other forms of art-world bureaucracy, why art critics have no power, why art dealing is “the last really honest thing [he's] ever done… the last thing…where you were punished for your mistakes,” why artists should join gangs, and what he’ll be up to next. Read More
We enjoyed this little video called “The Sweet Spot,” published by The New York Times today, in which culture columnist David Carr skewers film critic A.O. Scott for being a harsh critic and takes a brief respite by talking to Roberta Smith about the power of criticism to make or break careers. Read More
A few years ago, Sally Pemberton was digging around her mother’s house on Long Island when she happened upon a suitcase that belonged to her grandfather, Murdock Pemberton, who had died in 1982 at the age of 94. She popped open the lock and found correspondence with his mistress, letters from artists and gallery brochures that stretched back to before World War II. Intrigued, she continued rummaging and soon found a second suitcase that contained kind letters from Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe. Read More
The reviews have been streaming in steadily since the opening of the Barnes Foundation, the collection of early modernist masterworks of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, on Saturday at its more centrally located site along Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The building, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, at a cost of $150 million, replicates the galleries of the original structure while expanding its footprint to add new amenities like a central court, a café, a gift shop and an auditorium—a total of 93,000 square feet, compared to the original in Merion, a suburb of Philadelphia, which was only 10,000 square feet. The critics are all over the place on the new building. Here’s a cheat sheet of where some of them stand. Read More
Jed Perl, the art critic at the New Republic and a contemporary (as well as one time-co-worker) of Hilton Kramer, has an even assessment of the late critic and founder of The New Criterion who passed away in March. He had, Mr. Perl says, two sides–the enthusiastic aesthete and the harsh polemicist: Read More
Over in The Boston Globe, art critic Sebastian Smee has a great review of a new book called Portrait of Murdock Pemberton: The New Yorker’s First Art Critic, which sounds wonderful.
It seems that Pemberton’s granddaughter, Sally Pemberton, came across “several suitcases stuffed with clippings, exhibition catalogs, photographs (including by Man Ray), letters (from Stieglitz, among others), and an unpublished memoir” in her mother’s attic, and the book was born. Read More